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BMW Z4: Buying guide and review (2003-2008)

BMW Z4: Buying guide and review (2003-2008) Classic and Performance Car
BMW Z4 3.0 BMW Z4 3.0 BMW Z4 3.0 BMW Z4 3.0 Coupe BMW Z4 3.0 Coupe
Launched in 2003, the BMW Z4 roadster was the long-awaited replacement for the extremely successful Z3 - BMW’s first foray into the mass-market two-seater sportscar segment. Controversial Chris Bangle-era styling, electromechanical power-steering and the adoption of run flat tyres met with some criticism at launch, but the well balanced handling and great range of engines ensured that the Z4 carried on its predecessors success story.

With its focus on handling and driving dynamics, the Z4 earned itself a reputation as a great drivers’ car, the M versions in particular are already becoming modern collectors cars. 
 
Which one to buy?
 
There are a large number of engine variations to choose from, however the basic running costs for the non-M six-cylinder models are quite similar, making the larger capacity variants – which provide a decent hike in power over the 2.2-litre cars – highly desirable. The 3.0-litre model in particular is a great compromise between the full-fat M variants and the lower models in the range, and was also the only non-M car that was made available in Coupe form. 

The Coupe, introduced in 2006, is a significantly rarer car than the soft-top. Thanks to the much more rigid body structure handling is even better, while there’s a slightly more usable luggage space in the back too. Ride quality on standard suspension is very firm, meaning that cars with sports suspension and big wheels can be surprisingly uncomfortable on anything other than smooth road surfaces. 

The base 2-litre four-cylinder cars are eager, and not much slower than the 2.2-litre models. They also use much less fuel and cost less to maintain, so if outright speed is not a priority then these models are a great compromise. 

At the other end of the scale, the M powered Z4 is a different proposition altogether. Using the 343bhp engine from the heavier E46 M3, and with a full M-spec suspension system, the Z4 M coupe and roadster models took the fight straight to Porsche and Mercedes. The award-winning engine is one of the all-time great naturally aspirated units, providing a raw edged driving experience that will leave you breathless. Running costs are relatively reasonable for a car of this type, although certain M specific components can be pricey - especially if sourced from BMW.

Gearbox options were five-speed manuals and automatics on the early cars, with the facelift introducing six-speed variants. The Sequential Manual Gearbox was made available on a limited number of the 3.0-litre cars and while fun when pressing on, they can be jerky in town driving.

There’s a huge choice whitch means that you can afford to be picky, and it’s absolutely worth driving a few different models. The driving experience between a base spec four-pot Z4 and a sporty three-litre model is surprisingly different.
 
Performance and specs
 
Engine 2996cc 24valve DOHC I6 
Power 261bhp @ 6600 rpm 
Torque 232lb ft @ 2750rpm
Top speed 155mph (limited)
0-62mph 5.7 seconds 
Fuel consumption 32.8mpg 
Gearbox Six-speed manual
Insurance group 44
 
Dimensions and weight
 
Wheelbase 2495mm
Length 4090mm
Width 1780mm
Height 1300mm
Weight 1385kg
 
Common problems

• Parts are readily available and many maintenance items can be sourced from specialists.

• Suspension systems are generally reliable, however the springs are prone to snapping especially at the rear. Front control arm bushes tend to wear out and can be noticed by loose-feeling steering and creaking noises. Strut braces on the rear can break at the weld seams and will require expensive repairs. 

• Electrical systems are reliable, however some owners have complained of erratic wipers requiring motor replacements, which can be costly. Test all the buttons and switches inside the vehicle in case anything is amiss. 

• The interior is well built and there are no specific issues however the seats do rub against the body when pushed right back and can cause irritating squeaks when driving. 

• Engines are long lasting and should be smooth and free revving, especially the six-cylinder models. Power steering pumps can fail on early cars and the cooling system needs to be serviced regularly. The water pump can fail if the correct coolant mixture is not adhered to. 

• On M cars, check that the 1200-mile run in service was done, as failure to do so has been known to result in excessive engine wear. Crankcase ventilation oil separators can clog up and cause damage to the engine, but replacement parts are not unduly pricey.

• On convertible cars check the roof mechanism for any signs of slow operation or creasing in the roof lining. There should be no water ingress so any leaks may indicate an issue with the alignment of the roof or the side window fitment.
 
Model History 


2003: BMW Z4 launched in 170bhp 2.2, 190bhp 2.5 and 228bhp 3.0 litre versions. Five-speed manual and automatic transmission choices available, with SMG gearbox option available on 2.5 and 3.0 litre cars
2005: 215bhp 2.5si and 261bhp 3.0si engines replace older units resulting in lower emissions and higher power outputs. Navigation and heated seats introduced as optional extras, and SMG gearbox now only available on 3.0-litre cars. 2.2i six-cylinder entry level option replaced with 150bhp 2.0l four-cylinder engine.
2006: Mid-life facelift with new colours, wheel choices and minor changes to lighting. Six-speed manual and automatic gearboxes now available. Z4 Coupe introduced with 3.0-litre 261bhp engine,as wells as M Coupe with 343bhp M division engine.
2008: Final E85/86 Z4 rolls off the line
 
Owners clubs, forums and websites
 
• www.bmwcarclubgb.uk
• z4-forum.com
 
Summary and prices

Prices start at £3000-£4000 for the earliest cars, and as long as they have solid service and maintenance histories they can carry on forever, so don’t be put off by higher mileages. £6000-£8000 will get you one of the later cars. M Coupes and M Roadsters range between £12,000-£25,000 with condition and mileage being the biggest influencing factors on these cars.
 
The first Z4 has proven to be a great second-hand buy with reasonable running costs and styling that has improved with age. There are a lot of cars out there with a spec level and price to suit most people. It’s also a great way of experiencing the last of the old school BMWs, built before the motoring industry’s move to turbocharging and flappy paddles, so buy one now and enjoy it while you still can.
 
Words: John Tallodi
BMW Z4 3.0 BMW Z4 3.0 BMW Z4 3.0 BMW Z4 3.0 Coupe BMW Z4 3.0 Coupe
Last updated: 4th Dec 2015
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  • BMW Z4 20i sDrive M Sport 2dr Auto Sports

    £16,499 £16,499

    Type: Used Year: 2014 Make: BMW Model: Z4 Trim: 20i sDrive M Sport 2dr Auto Sports Body: Convertible Trans: Automatic Mileage: 42199 Engine Size: 1997 Ext Color: BLACK

    • Mileage: 42199 mi
    • Engine size: 1997
    For sale
    £16,499 £16,499
    Buyacar.co.uk
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  • BMW Z4 ROADSTER

    £4,995 £4,995

    About this BMW Z4 ROADSTER The BMW Z4 is a range of two-seat roadster and coupe models which have been produced since 2002. It is the third model in the BMW Z Series and the successor to the Z3. The first generation (E85/E86) was produced with either a soft top convertible roof, or as a fixed roof coupe. The Z4 has been powered by a range of inline-4 and straight 6 petrol engines. For the first generation (E85/E86), all of the engines were naturally aspirated. The example is powered by the 2.5 litre, straight 6 engine which produces 189bhp. The previous owner of this car has had it for over 12 years and has kept it in concours condition along with all the MOT and service receipt present. The car also features: Heated Seats, Electric Roof, ABS, Alloy Wheels, CD Player, Climate Control, Electric Mirrors, Height Adjusting Drivers Seat, Fixed Rollover Bars. Amazing sports car for reasonable value.

    • Mileage: 70000 mi
    For sale
    £4,995 £4,995